Merida, Spain Tourist Attractions
HistoryMérida was founded by the Romans in 25 B.C., under the name of Augusta Emerita, as a colony for veterans of the Vth and Xth Legions. The town prospered and became capital of the province of Lusitania; with a population of 50,000, it was the largest Roman town in Iberia and the political and cultural center of the whole peninsula. After Christianity was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire Mérida was one of the first Roman cities to become the see of an archbishop. It retained its position after its conquest by the Visigoths in the fifth century, but its decline began after it fell to the Moors in 713. The decline continued after its reconquest by Alfonso IX of León, who granted it in 1229 to the knightly Order of Santiago.
Santa María la Mayor
The hub of the town's traffic is the arcaded Plaza de España, at the northwest corner of which stands the church of Santa María la Mayor (13th-15th C.). It was founded by Alonso de Cárdenas, Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, who is buried in the church along with his wife.
Arco de Trajano
Templo de Diana
South of the Plaza de España, on the banks of the Guadiana, is the Alcazaba, a Moorish castle created in 855 by the enlargement of an earlier Roman and Visigothic building, which was later converted by the Order of Santiago into a monastery. The Moors restored the Roman cistern in the basement of the fortress and built a flight of steps down to it, re-using Roman and Visigothic stones.
Santiago Calatrava Bridge
Just below the Roman bridge Méridas' new symbol spans the river, the arches of the Santiago Calatrava bridge.
Casa del Mithraeo
From the Alcazaba, Calle de Oviedo runs south to the Plaza de Toros (Bullring), beyond which is the Casa del Mithraeo, a large Roman villa named after a mithraeum which was found here, with very fine mosaics depicting the origin of the world.
National Museum of Roman Art
Mérida's most important Roman monuments are at the east end of the town. On the way there from the Temple of Diana is the new National Museum of Roman Art, opened in 1986. Built on the scale of the Arco de Trajano, the Museum contains a fine collection of Roman coins, including many from the local mint, sculpture, including a head of Augustus in Carrara marble, a collection of Roman glass and wall paintings from the Roman theater. The Museum is built over part of the Roman town, and on prior appointment visitors can see the foundations of Roman buildings and other remains in the basement.
Address: Calle José Ramón Mélida, E-06800 Mérida, Spain
Opening hours: 10am-2pm, 4pm-6pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Extremadura Day - Spain (Sep 9), National Day - Spain (Oct 12), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24)
Entrance fee: Adult Admission Cost, Concession or reduced rate Discount
Useful tips: Admission free Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Opposite the Museum of Roman Art is an area containing the largest Roman architectural remains. To the right is the Theater, built by the Roman general Agrippa in 16 B.C. and rebuilt after a fire in the reign of Hadrian (A.D. second C.). The well preserved semicircular auditorium could seat 6,000 spectators. The rear wall of the stage buildings, which suffered most damage in the fire, has sculptural decoration dating from the second century rebuilding. Here there was a garden which served as a foyer. The theater has recently been restored and is used in an annual summer festival of drama.
Adjoining the theater are the excavated remains of the Roman Amphitheater, built in 8 B.C., in which 15,000 spectators could watch gladiatorial contests. The amphitheater could be flooded, so that ships could sail in and naval battles could be fought. After gladiatorial contests were banned material from the amphitheater was used for repairing the bridge over the Guadiana.
To the right of the Termas is the Casa Romana, a Roman villa of the A.D. first century with remains of wall painting and very beautiful pavement mosaics.
Adjoining the site of the hippodrome, on the far side of Calle Teniente Coronel Yagüe, can be seen the 140 arches of the Acueducto Moderno, the "modern" aqueduct built by the Moors.
From the Acueducto Moderno the Avenida Extremadura runs along the railroad to the station, just before which stands the church of Santa Eulalia, built in the fourth Century on the site of a Roman temple and completely rebuilt in the 13th century.
Aqueduct of the Miracles
Puente de Albarregas
A little way west of the Roman aqueduct the Puente de Albarregas, another Roman bridge, 125m/137yd long, spans the little Río Albarregas.
Map of Merida Attractions